The Mysterious Cost of College


As almost any parent of a high-school senior knows, figuring out the true college price tag is confusing. While the full annual sticker price can be as much as $60,000 or $70,000 at a private college and more than $55,000 at an out-of-state public college, experts say that many students will end up paying considerably less. Sizable merit and need-based aid packages take the sting out of those big numbers.

Students, however, typically have to wait until the spring, when their acceptance letters arrive, to learn the amount of those awards, making it difficult for families to effectively plan a long-term budget and posing significant obstacles for first-generation students who may not be aware of all the financial options.

Last September, President Obama announced a major reform to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the government form for determining Pell Grant amounts and guiding college-grant decisions. Parents will now be able to input financial information using figures from the previous year’s taxes returns on October 1, rather than after January 1, which may mean that students will learn about financial awards earlier in the process. This effort, combined with various online tools and political proposals, could make it easier for families to figure out the real price of college. Still, others say these initiatives don’t go far enough.

More here.

Do You Fitbit?

Last year, Steve and I began counting steps on our iPhones. Since I don’t carry my phone around with me all the time, it missed a whole bunch steps, and I felt gypped. If I clean the house, it’s easily 10,000 steps. I want those steps. They are mine. If I spend an afternoon cleaning showers and tubs, then I want something for it. I want bragging rights. So, I got a fitbit last spring before a vacation to Puerto Rico. I knew I was going to walk a lot. and I wanted to record all that goodness in one place.

We did walk around a lot during that vacation. I got some nice numbers and charts and graphs. (Yay, data!) But then the thing got put in a drawer for several months. I forgot to charge it. It looks kinda dorky. I see old people in the mall wearing them. It’s a huge fashion faux pas.

And then my friend, Susan, got one and started obsessively managing her steps and bragging about her steps. City Girl easily beat my old numbers, and I didn’t like City Girl to win. So, I started wearing it again in June, which was about when the kids finished school. Rather than go to the gym and leave Ian home alone for an hour and a half, I started running for forty minutes. Running three miles every morning meant that I sometimes beat City Girl’s numbers, which made me very happy.  I even ran a 31 minute 5K a few weeks ago, which put me on the same pace as the basically-in-shape-octoginarians.

Three months later after all that fitbitting and running, I really should see a difference on the scale. I don’t. All those studies say that fitbits give you the halo of health, meaning you think you’re healthier, but if you don’t change what you eat, you won’t lose weight. I eat okay, but it’s hard to avoid pizza in a house with teenagers.

I haven’t lost much weight, but 40 minutes of outdoor exercise is a major, MAJOR life changer. I am fitting into jeans more smoothly. I’m happier. I’m more productive. I’ve gotten hooked on new music on Spotify.

I’m working a lot right now. I’m working on three articles simultaneously this week. But I’m determined to hold onto my halo of health.

SL 678

Quiet day here. I had to get caught up with some secretarial work. And I HAD to read all the Brangelina gossip. God, I wasted too much time today. Anyhow, here are some quick links. I need to get outside and get some steps in.

For some reason, I’ve been looking at homes of artists and musicians today. Check out Frank Zappa’s old house. And here’s an artist’s place in Brooklyn.

Joss Whedon has assembled one of his largest casts ever to speak out against Donald Trump, “a racist, abusive coward who could permanently damage the fabric of our society.”

Blacking Out Stress

A college student explains why college students are drinking to blackout. It’s the stress, particularly at the small, elite colleges.

But there’s something else in the mix, something that pushes them from casual drinking to binge drinking to blackout.

I think it’s the stress. It permeates everything we do as college students. Many small, elite colleges are insanely competitive to get into in the first place and they remain competitive as students try to outdo one another with grades, scholarships, extracurricular activities and internships. Having been one of those hypercompetitive students, I can tell you that it never feels like enough. The person sitting next to you in class is always doing more and doing it better. I became obsessed with stacking my resume, even more so than I was in high school. I saw it as a reflection of whether I would succeed in life. And I’m not alone. The obsession seems largely driven by fear — fear of a crumbling job market, of not meeting parents’ expectations, of crippling loan debt.

Spreadin’ Love 677

I’ve been hustling words for the past couple of weeks, because I’m combining my Atlantic gig with work for the education website, Edutopia. They are going to start running original feature articles on education policy later this month. The website is funded by the George Lucas Foundation, so I’m fulfilling my high school dream of working for the Star Wars dude. I also wrote two articles and three blog posts for the Atlantic this month.

I just finished my last interview for the day. I’m tidied up some loose ends, and then I’m walking away from the computer. Yesterday was a 14-hour day. I think that’s enough.

So, let me throw out some links for you guys to gnaw on.

I’m sure you all know about Brangelina.

Hundreds of thousands of disabled people are not receiving their government benefits for college.

Bryce Covert writes that working mothers have achieved a major cultural battle. Even the Republicans think that mothers should be in the workplace and deserve support.

No one in tech will admit that they are old.

Ah, New Yorkers. They solve crimes their way and aren’t rattled by bombs.

Andrew Sullivan says that technology has made us information addicts.